The rising cost of home heating has many people wishing for more options. Now one local engineer has brought a foreign idea home to Vermont -- and it all centers on wood pellets.
Andy Boutin bought an older home in Vermont and was looking for a way to heat it with wood. After discovering there wasn't a compatible system for his steam radiators, he decided to look a little farther for a solution.
"I turned to northern Europe and found that they were using these wood pellet burners for a number of years. Tens of thousands have been installed all over northern Europe so we brought the technology over."
And a company called Pellergy was born.
"We took it on and manufactured here rather than importing because we wanted to affect local jobs and have a made in the USA product," said Boutin, Pellergy's general manager.
The Barre-based company now manufactures a clean burning, wood pellet heating system that is completely automated and controlled through a home's thermostat.
"Wood stoves and even pellet stoves are point of source heating," explained Boutin, "They'll heat one room maybe two rooms at a time. Our systems provide central heat."
When heat is needed wood pellets are sucked out of the storage bin, shoot up the auger and are dropped into the burner.
"Wood pellets burn incredibly clean. We don't see smoke and smog issues from wood pellet burning devices," said Boutin.
The company says this greener alternative to heating with fossil fuels will also save customers 30-40 percent on their annual heating bills. Homeowner Helene Hutt has a rather large model in her basement and says between the environmental and cost saving benefits she was sold.
"It actually was exciting. I felt like I was doing something good."
Many homes, especially in Vermont, may have older boilers. Despite age, these units can still be converted to the new technology.
"One of the advantages of our system is that it's more affordable than replacing your entire home heating system. This system can be used to replace just the oil burner," Boutin said.
With home heating oil reaching nearly $3 per gallon, Hutt says she's relieved to have ditched the oil for Vermont wood pellets.
The cost of each system varies by size but the company says it usually pays for itself within 5-7 years. And from now until the end of December the system also qualifies for a $1,500 energy tax credit.
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